The rugby union world is in mourning following the tragic death of Maori All Blacks star Sean Wainui.
The highly respected centre, 25, died in a single vehicle crash near Tauranga in New Zealand‘s Bay of Plenty region on Monday morning.
He leaves behind a devastated wife Paige and two young children – son Kawariki, 2, and step-daughter, Arahia.
The former under-20s New Zealand representative played 53 Super Rugby games for the Crusaders and current club the Chiefs.
Super Rugby star Sean Wainui died in a crash in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty region
Wainui and his wife Paige (right) celebrated their one year anniversary just six weeks ago. ‘One year of marriage with my darling. Love you more and more everyday,’ he posted to Instagram
Wainui pictured with his wife Paige and two young children, son Kawariki 2, and daughter, Arahia
He made Super Rugby history in June by becoming the first player to score five tries in a match in a Trans-Tasman clash against the NSW Waratahs.
He also represented the Maori All Blacks on 10 occasions.
His Super Rugby club led the outpouring of tributes as Wainui was remembered as a passionate, hard-working and proud Māori and exceptional player.
‘He epitomised everything you could possibly ask for in a player,’ Chiefs and Maori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan said.
‘He was an influential member in the teams he has been a part of, and his presence will be missed. Our sincere condolences to Paige, Kawariki and Arahia and his wider whānau at this difficult time. We are offering them our full support along with our players and staff.’
Wainui had been a fan favourite since joining the Chiefs in 2018.
Sean and his wife Paige (pictured together), ‘He’s such a good person so this is tragic,’ rugby coach Neil Barnes said
Wainui with wife Paige and son Kawariki, 2, after a Chiefs game, where he played 44 games
New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson described the tragedy as a dark day for the code.
He urged the media to give the Wainui family ‘space to grieve as we all reflect on a young life that has ended far too early’.
‘We know Sean’s passing will be felt deeply by everyone involved in rugby, particularly his Bay of Plenty and Chiefs team mates and we share their sorrow and their shock,’ Mr Robinson said.
An All Blacks statement read: ‘We are heartbroken right now. Sean, you were an inspiration and will never be forgotten. We extend all of our strength and aroha to your friends and whānau.
Sean Wainui in action for The Chiefs against the NSW Waratahs in Sydney in June, when he became the first player in Super Rugby history to score five tries in a match
Australian-born New Zealand artist Stan Walker (right) posted a photo from Wainui’s wedding with a touching tribute to the rugby star
Former Kiwi rugby international Sonny Bill Williams also expressed his shock.
‘My thoughts are with Sean Wainuis’ family,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘Especially his wife and young child. Although I didn’t play alongside him, I could always feel his mana coming up against him as his opposition.’
Wainui and his wife Paige celebrated their one year anniversary just six weeks ago.
‘One year of marriage with my darling. Love you more and more everyday. Here’s to another 100,’ he captioned throwback snaps from their big day.
Australian-born New Zealand artist Stan Walker posted a photo from Wainui’s wedding with a touching tribute to the rugby star.
‘We feel fully broken for you bro… Absolutely devastating my bro… You are loved by so many… Biggest heart my bro… Sooo much aroha and prayers to your beautiful wife, kids & all your whanau…’ Walker wrote.
Wallabies star Quade Cooper posted a tribute saying the world had lost ‘an incredible human’.
‘My heart goes out to Sean Wainui’s whanau. Lost for words as it was only a few months ago I was talking to him in the gym in tauranga,’ Cooper wrote.
‘Prayers for his wife and young family.’
Former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams was quick to pay tribute to Wainui after news of his passing
Wallabies star Quade Cooper posted a tribute saying the world had lost ‘an incredible human’
Wainui’s Chiefs team-mate Brad Weber was another to post a heartfelt tribute
Chiefs team-mate Brad Weber was another to post a heartfelt tribute.
‘Can’t quite put into words how much this one hurts. Always said publicly that Sean deserves everything he gets because he works so hard for it. But he doesn’t deserve this.
‘That first day back at Chiefs HQ next season is gonna hurt walking in and not seeing you there brother. RIP.’
His former club, the Crusaders, joined those paying tribute to Wainui.
‘We are deeply saddened to hear news of the passing of Sean Wainui Crusader #189, Sean will forever be a cherished member of our club,’ the Crusaders posted to its Twitter account.
‘I feel so sorry for his partner. He’s got a young one as well. It’s terrible for their whole family,’ coach Neil Barnes said of Wainui’s passing, pictured above with partner Paige
Wainui was born in Whatatutu near Gisborne and raised in Auckland.
He captained his school team at Takapuna Grammar School before he debuted for Taranaki in 2014 while still a teenager.
Current Taranaki coach Neil Barnes told the New Zealand Herald that Wainui was one of the hardest-working and fittest players he had seen.
‘He’s such a good person so this is tragic. He’s a really good community and family man. I feel so sorry for his partner. He’s got a young one as well. It’s terrible for their whole family.’
In February this year a video of Wainui teaching his eight-month-old son to do the haka went viral.
‘It’s my husband and our son doing the haka together. Father and son bonding. It is a Maori haka called ka mate,’ Wainui’s partner Paige explained.
Police inquiries into the fatal crash are continuing.
‘Police were notified that a car had crashed into a tree at around 7.50am,’ a statement read.
‘The sole occupant of the vehicle died at the scene.
‘The Serious Crash Unit attended the scene, and enquiries into the circumstances of the crash are ongoing.’
The Maori All Blacks star (pictured) was a fan favourite at Super Rugby club Chiefs